Everyone has a take on the true meaning of Christmas, but it comes down to one thing: love. It’s the reason for the season. It takes many forms during this period. Some express it through heartfelt gifts or charitable contributions. Others make meals for their loved ones, while some bond with their community through shared traditions. Some might bring that love inwards by practicing self-care.
It's all about giving back, acting with kindness, and holding space for those around you. Everything else, from the sparkling decorations to lavish feasts, is just there to make that love feel grander.
The True Meaning of Christmas, According to Filipinos
What does Christmas mean to you? Here are a few things that Filipinos do to embody the spirit of the season – through the holidays and beyond:
1. Share blessings, big or small.
Enjoying a Noche Buena feast isn’t the only worthwhile activity on Christmas Eve. For Edna and her family, it’s tradition to spend the evening preparing food to give away. Every year, they get together in their grandparents’ house with lots of bread, ham, and Lady’s Choice Real Mayonnaise to make sandwiches for visitors. The next day, neighborhood kids show up at their doorstep for morning snacks and pamasko. Skipping Noche Buena isn’t ideal, but Edna’s family prefers sharing these simple blessings with others.
2. Support local charities.
Steph’s family believes that Christmas is the season of giving and that it should always extend beyond their brood. One way they put this to practice is through a “giving pool” or money pot. They match whatever amount they spent on each other’s gifts and add it to the pool. Then, they donate everything to nonprofit organizations, including animal shelters and orphanages.
3. Give meaningful gifts.
One of the highlights of Sasha’s family festivities is their helpers’ annual Christmas party. Sasha and her husband offer clothes, cash, and other prizes as part of an informal program. Helpers from different households come together for a noisy night of merriment, complete with themes and decorations.
Presents are always better when they meet someone’s needs. In this case, the most important gift isn’t the pile of prizes. It’s being appreciated for your hard work and being able to join in the fun.
4. Cooking for the family.
Food lovers can’t get enough of the holidays because it’s a time of endless feasts. Jana’s family is no exception. For their Christmas dinners, they each cook something special to share. “One sibling takes care of dessert, and another makes the roast,” she explains. “I’m in charge of veggies. Mom makes potatoes, and dad mixes drinks. Kids set the table.” When the food is ready, the family sits together and savors every bite, appreciating everyone’s efforts.
5. Spend quality time with loved ones.
For many Filipinos, simply being with friends and family is the essence of Christmas. It’s the time when balikbayan relatives come home and barkada reunions abound. Busy students and office workers take breaks to stay home with their parents. Titas and titos show up to random dinners.
In Jan’s case, she gets to see members of her extended family almost every day in December. Sometimes for no reason at all! But it’s always a full house with yummy food and spirited conversations. “It’s cheesy, but I love seeing all my cousins together in one place,” Jan shares. “It’s rare now. That’s why I love the holidays.”
6. Pray with your community.
Prayer is integral to your celebration if you’re a devout Christian in the Philippines. Since the story of Christmas centers on the birth of Jesus Christ, Filipinos flock to churches to give thanks to God. While there are masses year-round, they’re even bigger in December. Catholic parishes hold Simbang Gabi, a series of dawn masses that culminate in Misa de Gallo on Christmas Eve. It’s tradition to attend services as a sign of faithful devotion.
7. Take time to rest and recover.
Yes, the holidays are bustling with activity. But they’re also an opportunity to retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. “Most of my year is spent working or running errands,” says Ayana. “I’m grateful to enjoy long breaks during this season. It allows me to reset fully and get ready for the New Year.” As the adage says, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Everyone should allow themselves to rest – it makes it easier to spread the Christmas cheer.
As you go through the holidays, you’ll gain a deeper, more personal perspective on the true meaning of Christmas. It’s different for everybody, so keep your heart open. Find it in the precious moments spent with those you love. Feel it in the rooms where people gather in gratitude. See it in the faces of people you help along the way. No matter what, lead with love – that’s how you stay true to the season.
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